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USA Basketball picks Walz to lead inaugural U23 team

USA Basketball’s U23 team to be coached by Jeff Walz, Courtney Banghart and Michelle Clark-Heard.

Courtesy of USA Basketball

USA Basketball announced Jeff Walz (Louisville) will lead the U23 team in the inaugural U23 Four Nations Tournament this summer in Japan.

“I am beyond thankful for the honor to work with USA Basketball again,” Walz said. “I had amazing experiences the past two summers as an assistant coach. Professionally, it’s something I dreamed of doing, and it became a reality. Now, to be asked to be a head coach and work with these student-athletes, is incredibly humbling. USA Basketball possesses impeccable standards and a winning tradition, and I am excited for the opportunity and eager to be entrusted with such an important role.”

Coach Jeff Walz will be joined by Courtney Banghart (Princeton) and Michelle Clark-Heard (Western KY), who will serve as assistant coaches.

Fresh off his 10th season at the helm of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, Walz led the Cardinals to its seventh Sweet 16 appearance. Coach Walz has a 263 - 93 (.739) record with the Cardinals during his tenure, while boasting two national runner-up finishes.

Coach Walz is not a rookie with USA Basketball, serving as an assistance coach in both 2014 and 2015. Walz helped both teams go undefeated to earn gold medals. But, this is his first assignment as head coach.

Coach Banghart is making her debut with USA Basketball. Banghart, who just completed her 10th season as the head coach of the Princeton Tigers, owns a 208 - 87 (.705) record.

“What a tremendous honor it is to serve USA basketball in a coaching capacity,” Banghart said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to coach the sport at the highest level and to do so while representing our country. I’m eager and ready to give USA basketball and all associated with it, my very best.”

Banghart was named the 2015 Naismith National Coach of the Year and included as one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders. She is also the winningest coach in program history leading the Tigers to at least 20 wins in seven of the past eight seasons.

Clark-Heard is making her second appearance on the sidelines for USA Basketball, in 2015, she helped USA Basketball earn a silver medal as an assistance coach for the U.S. Pan American Games Women’s Basketball Team.

Clark-Heard just wrapped up her fifth season as head coach at her alma mater, Western Kentucky, where she has compiled a 130 - 39 (.769).

“When I received the phone call, I was just so honored and very humbled,” said Clark-Heard. “I’m excited to be a part of USA Basketball again. The experience that I had last time [at the 2015 Pan American Games], I’m looking forward to being a part of that again, being around some amazing coaches and getting to learn more from them will be a great opportunity.”

In 2016 - 17, Clark-Heard led Western Kentucky to a 27-7 record, a Conference USA regular season title and tournament championship as well as an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

“USA Basketball is always looking for the best and brightest to lead our pool of young athletes. Coaches that have the ability to push these women to play at the highest level, give themselves over to the team concept and embody all that USA Basketball has stood for during their historic run of six consecutive Olympic gold medals,” said Jennifer Rizzotti, chair of the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee and head coach at George Washington University. “We are looking for coaches to lead the next generation and Jeff, Courtney and Michelle are three of the most successful and well-respected coaches in our business. We are happy to entrust our group of U23 athletes to this well-deserving trio.”

According to the press release, the 2017 U23 Four Nations Tournament will include top national teams including the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan.

Training camp to select the U.S. roster will be held at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado from July 31st through August 4th. Selected players will train through August 7th before heading to Tokyo.

The round-robin tournament will begin on August 12th and extend through August 15th. A venue has yet to be announced.

In order to be eligible for the U23 team, athletes must be a U.S. citizen under the age of 23 and currently a freshman, sophomore or junior in college.